The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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SC to review Advani case

New Delhi, Feb. 13: The Supreme Court will decide afresh whether the Babri Masjid demolition case against a group of eight that includes deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani will be tried in a court in Lucknow or in Rae Bareli.

The decision will have a bearing on the duration of the case as proceedings are at an advanced stage in the more powerful Lucknow court. The minor Rae Bareli court will have to start the trial from scratch.

In a rare instance, the Supreme Court today decided to review its November 2002 order upholding the establishment of a trial court at Rae Bareli to try eight criminal cases against as many BJP and Sangh parivar leaders.

The Mayavati government’s decision not to allow the cases against the eight to be heard at Lucknow will now come under the apex court scanner.

Besides Advani, the eight include his BJP colleagues Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar and the VHP quartet of Vishnu Hari Dalmia, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, Ashok Singhal and Sadhvi Ritambhara.

The criminal cases against the other accused are still being heard in the Lucknow trial court. The BJP-backed Mayavati government transferred only the eight cases to Rae Bareli for de novo (fresh) hearing by a notification after Allahabad High Court quashed criminal charges against Advani and the others on technical grounds but said, in the same order, that a fresh notification could be issued.

A three-judge bench of Justices S. Rajendra Babu, K.G. Balakrishnan and Arun Kumar said the review petition filed by Mohammad Aslam alias Bhure will be “heard in the court” but did not fix any date.

Bhure had earlier sought a notification from the Uttar Pradesh government to establish a trial court to try the saffron stalwarts. But Mayavati’s Rae Bareli court order did not satisfy him. Bhure’s counsel O.P. Sharma said “political favouritism” is being shown to these “eight VVIPs” whereas the other “similarly situated” accused are facing the same trial in Lucknow.

The review petition contends that “equality before and equal application of law” guaranteed by the Constitution has been violated by segregating the eight cases.

Sharma said that the Lucknow trial court has heard most of the trial in which chargesheets were filed to try all the 100-odd accused in the demolition case. If the cases of the eight “VVIPs” are transferred to Rae Bareli, the trial will take several more years to conclude.

The demolition of the mosque is not an ordinary crime, but a “national crime” for which the accused must face trial soon. Criminal justice administration should be put on the fast track, Sharma said.

The criminal case cloud had receded with the high court quashing the trial and successive BJP or BJP-backed governments not issuing a fresh notification.

Mayavati revived the cases later but transferred them to the Rae Bareli “Special Court of Judicial Magistrate, First Class” for fresh trial.

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